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Do your friends have big mouths? Josh Solt and Matthew Loew, fans of HBO's Game of Thrones, wanted to do something about it.
In June 2013 the two were on a cross-country flight when the Red Wedding episode ("The Rains of Castamere") aired. Once they touched down in Los Angeles, their Facebook and Twitter feeds were inundated with spoilers about the show. They were incensed.
"We had been grumbling about spoilers for a while, but that was the final straw," Solt remembers. "Right there, in the middle of LAX, we decided to try to solve this problem by doing something about it once and for all."
That something was Spoiler Shield. They launched their free iOS app in September, enabling fans to block all social media messages pertaining to many popular shows and sports teams. Today the app is also available for Android, Kindle and Google Chrome, and offers "shields" for dozens of pro and college sports teams, as well as more than 50 popular TV shows, including Mad Men, The Walking Dead, The Bachelor and The Voice.
The app uses a proprietary algorithm that automatically parses social media missives for keywords and hashtags in a certain context that might make them spoilers, overlaid with an easy-to-navigate user interface. Once users set up the app and grant it access to their social feeds, a (virtual) gold shield covers spoiler posts; users can determine on a case-by-case basis whether they want to reveal the posts or not.
To fund the idea, Solt and Loew--who, between them, have experience with finance, insurance and education startups--kicked in an undisclosed amount of their own money and raised six figures from angel investors. That pot has gotten the company from development through launch; now, Loew says, the firm is keen on working with investors and other angels on a Series A round.
Though the company hasn't notched any profit (the founders plan to pursue revenue in data mining and white labeling), Spoiler Shield certainly has industry people talking. Nick DeNinno, a veteran Hollywood TV producer and one of the founding partners of California's La Costa Film Festival, describes the app as "brilliant" and notes that the technology is especially useful for TV because it appeals to rabid fans and to those who tend to binge-watch multiple episodes.
"As an industry, we do a lot of intentional spoiling as part of our marketing strategy," DeNinno says. "If you're a fan, this is a great first line of defense."
Loew says the company is committed to increasing its roster of TV shows and at press time was working on adding a number of international soccer teams in time for the World Cup. Also on the agenda: improving the algorithm to incorporate artificial intelligence that will enable it to learn user preferences over time.
"Spoilers are a zero-sum game," Loew jokes. "If we want to solve this problem, we have to be perfect."
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